Last year, China stopped taking most foreign recyclables. Previously, 40 percent of the United States’s paper, plastics, and other recyclable materials were sent there. Beijing’s decision threw U.S. recycling into a crisis that reaches from global political decision-making all the way down to what we decide to put into our blue bins. This lecture draws on O’Neill’s new book, Waste, to talk about why we got into this predicament, why Beijing made its decision to stop being the “world’s waste dump,” and what it means for how – and whether – we recycle in the future. Is banning straws and bags the right thing to do? Or do we need to find better ways to recycle plastics and other household trash? These answers are not so simple but they matter to us all.
Speaker: Kate O’Neill Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Kate O’Neill specializes in global environmental politics and governance and the global politics of waste. She is the author of several books and her work on waste and the global recycling crisis has been featured on local, national, and international radio and TV and other media including NPR, China Global Television Network, and The Economist. She is also a resident faculty member living in the residence halls and working with first-year students to bridge their residential and campus lives. She holds a B.A. (with honors) from Oxford and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia.